Sunday, January 16, 2011

My 2010 Illinois Entertainer Reviews, p. 4

Burton Cummings: Above the Ground (New Door/UMe)--Released two years ago in Cummings’ native Canada, Above the Ground is the first album by the former Guess Who frontman in over thirty years to receive a major-label push in the U.S. It’s also his first album of new material since 1990. And, boy, does he have a lot stored up (nineteen songs, seventy-seven minutes). It’s too much, of course, but patient listeners can edit from the overabundance a pretty good vinyl-length LP. Where to start: “TSOP” (finally, he revisits the “Clap for the Wolfman” riff), “Rollaway” (finally, a couch-surfing lullaby), and “We Just Came from the U.S.A.” and “Look Out Charlie” (finally, more anti-U.S. animus where “American Woman” came from). And, by all means, watch the making-of documentary DVD (the reason the cover has a parental-advisory-explicit-content label).

Eminem: Recovery (Interscope)--If you care about the one-man reality show known as Marshall Mathers, you’ll enjoy Recovery. The lyrics address serious issues (the death of friends, the struggle of addicts to stay clean, divorce and its aftermath), the hooks and beats creatively incorporate samples and guest vocalists (Rihanna, Pink), the good-taste jokes are funny (“I’m the bees knees, his legs and his arms,” “They’ll never ketchup to all this energy that I’ve mustered”), and the bad-taste jokes (about Michael J. Fox, Ben Roethlisberger, David Carradine, Elton John) will drive the oversensitive nuts. But nothing will make you care about the reality show if you don’t already--not its relentless profanity, its scatological and violent images, or its main character’s obnoxiously hectoring voice. You can shut up now, Mathers. We get it.

Roky Erickson & Okkervil River: True Love Cast Out All Evil (Anti)--This long-awaited album from the driving force behind the 13th Floor Elevators and one of rock-and-roll’s most legendary acid casualties begins and ends with lo-fi recordings he made during the early 1970s while incarcerated in a Texas hospital for the “criminally insane.” The first is called “Devotional Number One” and implores the help of Jesus; the last is called “God Is Everywhere.” In between Erickson visits (and in some cases revisits) material he accumulated in the ensuing decades during periods of relative lucidity. The B-movie horror-fantasies that dominate his 2005 anthology are nowhere in sight. In their place is what might be called a white-knuckled sanity set to country-rock grandeur and sung in a voice that at its most intense still sounds like a cross between Mick Jagger and Janis Joplin.

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